What does it mean if your dog is diagnosed with diabetes? Can canine diabetes be treated or managed? What are diabetes symptoms in dogs? While canine diabetes can develop at any age, it usually occurs in middle-aged to senior dogs. 70% of canines diagnosed with diabetes are over 7 years old. It is also twice as common in unspayed female dogs as in male dogs. The disease is estimated to affect 1 in 300 dogs, although researchers believe that it is under diagnosed.
It’s important for pet parents to be aware of diabetes symptoms in dogs so that if you detect certain changes in your dog’s overall health and behavior, you’ll have an idea of what is going on and what you can do about it. Knowing what to look out for is the first step in protecting your pet’s health.
What is Canine Diabetes?
To fully understand the answer to this question, we must understand the hormone insulin which is secreted by the pancreas.
Simply put, when your dog eats and digests his food, much of the proteins and carbohydrates are broken down and converted into glucose which is one of the body’s main sources of energy. Glucose is absorbed from the dog’s intestines into his bloodstream, where it is meant to travel throughout his body, nourishing his cells and tissues and organs.
Insulin is the hormone produced and released by the pancreas in response to this digestive metabolic process. This is because insulin is required to transfer the glucose from the blood into the cells of the body where it can be used for energy. We may think of insulin as an ‘escort with a key’, delivering glucose from the dog’s bloodstream into the cells of the body where it can provide nourishment and energy.
But what happens when the dog’s pancreas is unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin to carry out this normal bodily process? Too little insulin available means that glucose can’t enter the cells of the body and so instead builds up to elevated concentrations in the blood and urine.
An excess of glucose in the bloodstream is called hyperglycemia, and is often associated with diabetes mellitus, the most common form of diabetes seen in dogs.
Diabetes Symptoms in Dogs
- Increased Water Consumption ~ Your dog is drinking increased amounts of water and emptying his water bowl more frequently. This is because he is experiencing excessive thirst. The medical term for this is polydipsia and it is one of the first signs of canine diabetes mellitus in dogs.
- Frequent Urination ~ He’s urinating more frequently than usual and producing abnormally large volumes of urine. The medical term for this is polyuria and it is also an early symptom of diabetes.
- Constant Hunger ~ A dog whose body is not being properly nourished due to a lack of insulin to deliver fuel to the cells will often become ravenous. It seems no matter what or how much he eats, he can’t get satisfied.
- Weight Loss ~ When weight loss accompanies this voracious appetite, it’s a sure sign that something is wrong and likely indicative of diabetes in your pet.
Advanced Symptoms ~ In more advanced cases of canine diabetes mellitus, the symptoms can become more obvious and scarier. They include:
- Fatigue and depression
- A complete loss of appetite
- Cloudy eyes or cataracts
- Recurring infections
What Should I Do if I Suspect My Dog is Diabetic?
Make an appointment for a visit with your veterinarian. Hopefully, you already have a vet who is familiar with your dog’s medical history, but if you don’t, that’s O.K., just take him to a vet. It’s a good idea to jot down a list of symptoms you’ve observed, as well as any question you may have about the disease.
After doing a thorough physical exam on your canine kid, the good doctor will likely run a complete bloodwork panel to check your dog’s blood glucose level, as well as rule out the possibility of any other conditions. He or she will also run a urinalysis. A definitive diagnosis of canine diabetes can be made when glucose is found in both the dog’s urine, and at a high concentration in his bloodstream.
Managing Canine Diabetes
So if your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, is it manageable? The likelihood that your pet’s diabetes is easily managed depends a great deal on early detection and diagnosis. That’s why it’s so crucial for pet parents to be aware and take notice of diabetes symptoms in dogs in the early stages and take the animal to the vet right away.
Canine Diabetes can be managed very successfully with Insulin Therapy, a Good Diet, and Exercise.
Insulin Injections: After making the diagnosis, your veterinarian will determine the insulin dose your dog needs based on his bodyweight. Most diabetic dogs require daily insulin injections. These injections are given under the skin (subcutaneously) and they are something that you as the pet owner will have to learn to do.
But speaking as a vet tech that has treated many a diabetic dog, the injections are not hard at all. The syringe is attached to a very skinny needle, and with a little experience, the shots will become a quick and easy daily routine that isn’t traumatic at all for pet or pet parent. (I always make it a habit to affectionately praise the dog after each injection.)
At first the insulin levels will have to be closely monitored and may even need to be adjusted a few times. It’s important to note that YOU will play the primary role in your dog’s health care, from giving the daily injection, to monitoring his glucose levels. You and your veterinarian will work closely to determine the optimum insulin dosage for your dog and your personal commitment to keeping him healthy is extremely important.
A Good Diet: What you feed your dog plays a major role in keeping his diabetes regulated. Your vet can make recommendations according to the needs of your special canine but some fundamental helpful hints are:
- Choose a dog food with good quality sources of protein, but with low carbohydrates.
- Keep the meal content and the amount and time of day you feed your dog the same each day. This will avoid changes in insulin requirements.
- If your pooch is pudgy (if your dog is overweight), switch to a reduced calorie diet.
Consistent Exercise: Exercise can affect your dog’s blood glucose levels, so the amount of exercise he gets should remain consistent. Your veterinarian can advise you on an exercise plan for your dog and it will be specific as to whether or not he needs to lose weight.
Life With Your Diabetic Dog
The great news is that the life expectancy of diabetic dogs that stay regulated with insulin, eat a tasty and nutritious steady diet, and stay on a consistent recommended exercise regimen is quite similar to that of healthy dogs.
As I mentioned before, a level of commitment is required from every pet parent of a diabetic dog if you want to ensure a good number of future years spent with your precious pet. There will be daily injections to administer and glucose monitoring, and regular check-ins and check-ups with your veterinarian.
Keeping up with regular vet visits is KEY to successfully managing your dog’s diabetes and it can help you and your dog avoid complications and side effects from the disease.
Thanks so much for visiting My Geriatric Dog and learning about diabetes symptoms in dogs. Please leave me any questions, comments or relevant experiences in the comment section below.